How do I layout a permaculture garden?

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The layout of a permaculture garden is determined by convenience. By planning elements close to the user it creates efficiency. For example, keeping a kitchen garden close to the kitchen is convenient because herbs and annuals are readily available for a quick harvest. 


Permaculture Zones

Zone 0 – This is the home or main residence. This isn’t always drawn into permaculture zone maps because often this space is very personal.

Zone 1 – This is a highly trafficked area where gardens are more controlled due to higher frequency of visits. Zone 1 may be visited multiple times in a day. 

Zone 2 – Less controlled, this area would contain food forests and areas needing less regular visits and maintenance. 

Zone 3 – Grazing animals and larger livestock area. This area may also contain windbreaks and smaller woodlots!

Zone 4 – Loosely managed space, rarely frequented. This may be mushroom grow areas or wild edible forage space. Lumber may be grown here also.

Zone 5 – Wilderness. This may be an area that is already thriving, but sometimes it’s a space that needs regeneration. Once regenerated though, it is left to nature and generally unmanaged by humans. Zone 5 is for observation and contemplation.


 Kitchen garden – Zone 1

The proximity of the kitchen garden to the residence is important because it saves time and energy. Keeping the most enjoyed veggies close is very convenient. I love chard and kale and eat it almost daily, so I plant them along path edges. It is then very easy to grab leaves on my way in and out of the house, without trudging too deep into the garden… and rainbow chard is a very pretty garden accent too. The kitchen garden is also a great place to keep high value plants. You’re able to keep a sharp eye on them and quickly identify any problems with pests and diseases.

Keeping a compost bin close to the kitchen is also advisable. This is a great way to make sure kitchen scraps make it to the compost and not into the bin. Finally, water harvested from the roof will be close to the house and stored in tanks. This makes watering the garden very convenient, especially if you are manually moving water from tanks to pots and plants. 


Kitchen garden Design


Food Forest – Zone 2

Zone 2 is usually for perennial food crops, such as fruit trees, berries, and other perennial herbs. This is also known as a food forest, or the home orchard. This system will look different depending on the slope of the land, wind, water flow, exposure, climate, and other environmental factors. Some people may use a steep slope tree planting method, or syntropic rows, while others may use a swale system. The important thing to remember is this is the area that’s visited regularly, maybe even daily, but it doesn’t necessarily have the same needs as zone 1. 

To understand how to plant a food forest, check out our blog here.


Livestock – Zone 3

Zone three is the farm. This is the barns, cash crops, animals, stocked ponds, rotational pastures, and livestock/tractor laneways. This area of the property is not monitored extensively but still visited at least 1 – 3 times weekly. This allows care for animals or crops, and regular maintenance or monitoring. Keeping animals further from the house also reduces offensive odors and noises. 


Livestock in Zone 3


Woodlots – Zone 4

This is an area that has far less management from the property owners. It may consist of woodlots, native support species, mushrooms, foraging, habitat restoration, or hunting. This is visited less often, maybe only a few times per season (depending on the hunt). Or maybe it is only visited a few times per year, for wood or seasonal wild fruits and nuts. By grazing your livestock in this area you can also help to feed them at lower cost to you, while keeping underbrush controlled.


Wilderness – Zone 5

This is an area for observation. Taking walks, meditating, reflecting, and appreciating. There’s very little management in this area, with the exception of disease or fire prevention when needed. The most you take away from this space is knowledge, ideas, and experience. When we understand what the natural system is doing, we are better equipped to mimic that behaviour in our managed systems. 


Zone edge areas – Eg; Chickens & Bees

Chickens love your veggie garden so you may want to be careful about having them too close to your food, but you don’t want them too far away since you’ll want to visit them regularly too. So, put them on the edge of zone 1 & 2! Not all elements of your design will fit neatly into the zones. By keeping chickens on the edge you can build compost between the zone 1 veggie garden and the zone 2 food forest. 

Bees are another example of an element that could be placed on the zone edge. With bees, the planning is based on laws, allergies, convenience, or cash crops. Keeping bees on the edge of zones 1 & 2, near the chickens, may benefit the kitchen garden and the food forest. However, you may have wildlife issues and need them further from the house. It’s important to consider where these work best in your situation.


To Conclude…

Permaculture gardens are planned by breaking the property into zones. Things that have regular use or require regular service should be conveniently located in zone 0… or the source. Watch this video tour of Melliodora to see how David Holmgren and Sue Dennett have planned their property:

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